Saturday, July 23, 2016

Groom Creek, Spruce Mountain, & a Fire Tower—Prescott Adventure

Weather:  88°, sunny, thunderstorm

About this hike:  Check Prescott off the bucket list of places I want to see in AZ.  Groom Creek Trail to Spruce Mountain Summit was a fabulous choice.  It's an easy drive from downtown Prescott.  I had read that a fire lookout tower adorns the top of Spruce Mountain.  Twice I have attempted to get to the fire lookout on top of Bill Williams Mountain and twice I have been defeated (a freak May snowstorm and then family drama).

The skies over most of the state were clear and AZ sunshine was pouring down.  Except over the Groom Creek Trail where a small thundercell had formed.  Determined not to be defeated again, we pressed on.  A power line runs parallel to the trail for a while.  So power lines, tall pines, and hiking during a thunderstorm—kids don't try this at home.

The lightning appeared to be mostly cloud-to-cloud, and eventually we reached the summit where I finally got my fire tower fix!

As I approached the tower, a Forest Service Ranger shouted down to us to come on up.  From her perch she pointed out Bill Williams Mountain (ironic), the San Francisco Peaks (Flagstaff), and smoke from a distant fire that she believed was a controlled burn.  Oh, and not to mention all the beautiful green ponderosa pine forest that makes up the Prescott Valley.  We chatted with the friendly Forest Ranger for a while, looked at her charts and maps, and were amused by the flock of hummingbirds at feeders hanging from the sides of the tower.  I couldn't have asked for a better experience.  Maybe someday I'll get to see the tower atop Bill Williams Mountain...

An interesting observation—usually I put my phone in airplane mode on these hikes.  The signal fades out and it just kills the battery while the phone searches in vain for service.  However, atop Spruce Mountain I had all 5 bars + 4G-LTE.  Communications towers also adorn the top of Spruce Mountain.

So how do workers get up to these towers on Spruce Mountain you ask?  Well there's a dirt road.  And as we came down from the tower, a minivan full of screaming kids arrived and unloaded.  I'm still glad we took the harder way up via the Groom Creek Trail...